CIOs carry the tremendous responsibility of organising their enterprise IT strategy to be cost effective, efficient and high quality. One of the most critically important components of enterprise IT has been applications. Worldwide, enterprise IT departments deploy and deliver third party applications to their end users and lines of business, and in many cases, build new custom applications from scratch that satisfy the business needs of end users that are otherwise unsatisfied by third party packages. Applications are the lingua franca of IT. In fact, a number of practices have evolved around the importance of the application, how they are built and how they are delivered. One of the most important is the practice of enterprise architecture.
As the sea-change that is cloud computing washes over the industry, certain aspects of cloud that make their way into the enterprise as private cloud will move enterprise architecture from fairytale to reality. The most important of the cloud form factors for enterprise IT will be Platform as a Service (PaaS), deployed internally as a private PaaS.
PaaS is a software layer that typically stitches together networked resources including OS instances, database server instances, web server instances, and even load balancers into a single, shared logical hosting layer. Essentially, PaaS is best summarised as a data centre OS. Application developers, rather than writing an application and tediously configuring that application to be deployed on some specific infrastructure, simply upload the application to the PaaS and seconds to minutes later, have it up and running. A far cry from the 60-90 days it might take to get the infrastructure to deploy an application in the enterprise IT setting. The PaaS takes on the responsibility of matching the various application components to the infrastructure, deploying those components, dynamically configuring them, and even providing tools for scaling and updating the application over time - all the mundane tasks no one wants to do. More advanced PaaS offerings even offer advanced architecture patterns, frameworks, and platform services such as caching via APIs that guest applications can use.
For the past few years, two seemingly orthogonal trends, private cloud and enterprise architecture, have been on a collision course that would lead to the next era of enterprise IT. Enterprises have been looking to cloud architecture patterns for "what's next", while the cloud has provided new meaning to operating efficiency. Rather than evolving down independent paths, private cloud and enterprise architecture have converged to private PaaS.
As described, PaaS offers tremendous value but for reasons related to security, performance, bandwidth and latency, developers within the enterprise are typically barred from using it for all but the simplest and least sensitive development projects. Enter private PaaS. Private PaaS is the deployment of a PaaS software layer on an enterprise's internal infrastructure with the goal of exposing the PaaS service to the developers within an enterprise's various lines of business.
What are the benefits of private PaaS over public PaaS? Well I'm glad you asked. Benefits include:
• Faster Time to Market - Self service utility model allows users to upload compiled code and in a button click, "publish" it, never needing to configure an application or server again. Deploy apps in minutes versus weeks or months.
• Increased Agility - Simplifies application deployment, management and scaling, while improving developer productivity through shared services.
• Reduced Costs - Greatly improved infrastructure utilisation, removes human configuration tasks where appropriate, and provides self-service interfaces.
• Reduced Complexity - Simplifies ongoing application management by abstracting applications away from infrastructure and enforcing a common, inheritable architecture.
• Streamlined Application Management - Enables users to manage all applications from a central place and never needing to worry about being outside the bounds of IT governance.
Essentially, the hundreds or thousands of developers and architects get access to an internally (and centrally) offered PaaS, hurdling over the public roadblocks and getting full access to PaaS primary value proposition. While this in its own right is powerful, PaaS truly establishes an enforceable shared architecture and set of services for all applications deployed to it. Applications all conform to an internal gold-standard, and can tap into the PaaS' various services such as authentication, caching, or whatever else the PaaS has to offer. As a result, no application is an exception to the rule, but rather all applications inherit from the same foundation. The by-product is that the enterprise becomes extremely nimble. Utilisation due to shared infrastructure skyrockets, time to market for both deployment and management is drastically shortened, and developer productivity increases. Essentially, PaaS embodies the vision of the enterprise architect and provides an enforceable common layer that is an immensely appealing (and thereby adoptable) value proposition for the developers within the enterprise. As the intersection for private cloud and enterprise architecture, PaaS will change the private enterprise IT landscape for years to come.